Thursday, March 20, 2008

What Color is My Platform?

A marketing term that’s been making the rounds in publishing lately is platform. Many people claim writers ought to have one. Problem is, many writers don’t have a clue as to what a platform even is. So I thought I’d clarify that for any of you who are wondering…

One of the terms that platform is most easily confused with is branding, but the two are significantly different. Branding relates to the nature of your work itself, while the term platform is concerned with whether or not you have a "platform" from which to sell your work.

The term originated with non fiction and referred to whether or not the author had the appropriate credentials, degrees, and job experience to effectively be able to market their book. For example, a wedding consultant writing wedding planners, rather than just Suzy Q who loves weddings. Or a practicing psychologist writing a self-help book, rather than a lay person who'd been through a lot of psychotherapy. Their professional standing gave them the "platform" from which to sell their work. They could make the rounds on talk shows and radio as experts, and that expertise then in turn pointed people to their non fiction books. Also, they could then promote their books in their professional life, seminars, conferences, etc. Additionally, as the non fiction field became more and more crowded, a distinctly unique angle became a necessary part of that platform.

Eventually, it leaked over into fiction, but in fairly narrow instances. I would venture to say that the vast majority of fiction writers don’t have a platform. It only works in very specific situations; an ex green beret writing about secret ops or a practicing lawyer writing legal thrillers. That experience as a lawyer or green beret gives the author a certain perceived authority to write those books, and that “authority” status gives them a platform where they can use their credentials to promote their book.

Clear as mud, right? Well, the good news is, if you write fiction, you most likely don’t have to worry about it, so I officially give you permission to let it go…

And in other news, SVP is rapidly approaching our 15,000 visitor! Whooppee!! To celebrate, we’re having another contest. The first person to call it after the meter turns over to 15,000 will win a copy of the 2008 Golden Kite Fiction Award winner HOME OF THE BRAVE by Katherine Applegate-- a stunning read.

ps: An annoying side note - we've had to institute word verification for the comments in order to prevent the recent spate of spam. Sorry for the inconvenience!


Anonymous said...

Dear Robin:

First of all, thanks for the kind words about Home of the Brave.

I've been meaning to write you to tell you how Shrinking Violet has helped shepherd me through a introvert's version of the year from hell! I've managed to avoid promoting my books for many years, but Home of the Brave was very special to me, and I knew I'd have to face the daunting prospect of speeches and get-togethers if I was going to give it the TLC I felt it deserved. Your advice -- and your insistence that even we introverts can navigate the book promotion world -- gave me the boost I needed at a crucial time. HOTB just received the Josette Frank fiction award from Bank Street College, which required me to fly to NYC and give my first real, live speech, and I am proud to say I survived!!! Thank you, thank you, for being there when I needed it most!

Katherine Applegate

Mary Hershey said...
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Mary Hershey said...

Robin, per usual, fabulous stuff. The differentiation between branding and platform was very helpful. And, the red platform shoes, for god's sake, WHERE can I get a pair?? Must have!

Katherine Applegate! What a treat and an honor to have you with us! We are so happy to hear that Shrinking Violets have helped you navigate the world of promotion and marketing. And congrats on another well-deserved reward. HOME OF THE BRAVE is so completely aMaZiNg!

Might we talk you into sending a signed bookplate to the lucky person that wins our contest and gets the copy of your book??

Happy Spring, everyone!
Mary Hershey

Robin LaFevers said...

Well, Mary got up earlier than I did and beat me to the punch...But welcome Katherine! We're very excited you stopped by and we're beyond thrilled that Shrinking Violets was helpful to you!

And congratulations on yet another award for HOME OF THE BRAVE. The Golden Kite and The Josette Frank Award, this new book of yours is amassing quite an impressive collection! And very well deserved...

Robin LaFevers said...

p.s. Katherine-I can't find an email address for you on your website, (surely the true sign of an introvert!) so if you happen to see this, could you please email me at shrinkingviolet(at) Thx!

liquidambar said...

We're at 14913, so still some room left. I remember the big 5000. Violets rule! We're everywhere!

I agree that a platform is more important for nonfiction. It could be relevant to historical novels also--even if it's fiction, people want to believe you know what you're talking about and didn't create characters or situations false to the time. And I suppose, even in my contemporary YA, readers need to feel that I know the world about which I'm writing.

Anonymous said...
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Barbara Shoup said...

My new novel, Everything You Want, is about a family that wins $50,000,000
playing Lotto Cash--and gets all out of whack as a result. Alas, I have no platform--nobody in my family won $50,000,000 playing Lotto Cash, THAT'S for sure!

Thanks for the distinction, in any case. I always wondered about that.

Shari said...

HEY! It's 15000!! :D

Jennifer J. Stewart said...

Interesting post. I figured out my brand long ago, and put it on my website and my business cards. It does seem to do the trick.

As for platforms? I have one for one book, and none for two books.

And I've never had platform shoes. They are stunning in red, but they look like ankle breakers.